I first made the acquaintance of Arthur O. Eve in 2010. He had placed an urgent call to the President of UB sharing his deep concerns for the youth of Buffalo and seeking the University’s help in finding a way to save our city’s children. As the then Special Assistant for Educational Partnerships I was asked to follow up with Mr. Eve and learn more about his request. Little did I know that my return phone call would lead to friendship and engagement beyond anything I could have ever imagined.
When I reflect on Arthur’s contributions to the world of educational access it is difficult to articulate the depth and scope of his impact. But perhaps most impressive and inspiring to me is his continued commitment and love for our city’s children that endures despite his poor health, advanced age, and considerable personal challenges. Not a month goes by without an urgent phone call from Arthur, beseeching us to come together- colleges and universities, churches, schools, and community organizations- to work together to support the youth and their families.
Although I have to admit that his religious zeal made me a little uncomfortable at first, I have come to welcome his prayers and devotions. In fact just yesterday as I was driving in blizzard-like conditions to a hockey game in Erie Pennsylvania, Arthur called to tell me that the Jesus in him loves the Jesus in me. He also asked me to pray for his wife who is in the hospital. While he sounded both tired and scared he had found the strength to reach out and share his love, a gift that has stayed with me and has compelled me to share this post in his honor.
Throughout my brief friendship with Arthur he has focused his passion on the role and potential of churches to galvanize collaboration around supporting Buffalo’s children and their families. Although I had- and have- little experience with the faith-based community, I remain strongly committed to the promise of collaboration, and offered to articulate his vision in the form of a document that could be shared and built upon. Although at the time (2010 – 2011) we were unable to put his vision (GEMS) into action, I believe that it remains both powerful and doable from an implementation standpoint.
Please read and consider his vision which is detailed below in his own words.
Grace, Education, Mentoring & Spiritual, Development
A Tutoring, Mentoring & Health Program with a Spiritual Foundation for Buffalo Youth.
THE NEED: Today we are facing an unprecedented threat to our community’s children. Every day we lose our most valuable resources to the ravages of dropping out of school, crime, violence, HIV-Aids, drug addiction, unemployment, teen pregnancy, apathy, chronic health issues, and hopelessness. Buffalo has been renamed the 3rd poorest city in the country, socially and economically among Black and Hispanic children, with over 30% of its citizens living in poverty and 52% of the children dropping out of school. NY State correction agencies use drop-out data, and 4th and 5th grade failures in reading to predict the number of prison cells that will be needed in future years. This speaks to the many challenges that face our city’s youth and the Church. We all agree that education, mentoring, and spiritual development represent the only viable pathways out of this crisis.
CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES: Within every poor, oppressed, neglected, and struggling neighborhood in our city are churches that represent bastions of safety, hope, love, and spiritual development. The pastors, ministers, evangelists, and members more than any other body or institution have the love, commitment, and power to foster the value of education, mentoring, and spiritual development and principles for households, families, and children within the safety of the church and other secure facilities. In addition to the churches our city also boasts a wealth of colleges and universities that serve as engines for knowledge and innovation. These colleges offer a bounty of students, faculty, alumnae, and leadership who are well positioned to provide resources, tutoring, and mentoring to youth. Many of these individuals have benefited from programs such as SUNY EOC, EOP, STEP, C-STEP, Liberty Partnerships, HEOP, Upward Bound, McNair Scholars, and a host of other programs designed to support children, young adults, and students of underrepresented or at-risk backgrounds. These individuals (alumnae and completers) are especially suited to work with, support, and connect with Buffalo’s youth and families. Jesus said, “As you do unto the least among you, you do unto Me.” He also said, “To whom much is given, much is required.” And the Bible reminds us to (Proverb 22:6 “Train up a child in the way they should go. And when they’re old, they will not depart from it.”)
THE GEMS CONCEPT: The GEMS program will include the church evangelists, ministers, and members as the first to go door to door around their churches in a 1, 2, or 3 block radius and invite the families to worship with them, and leave a list of programs and community activities that will take place at their church, in which they are invited to participate. Any youth 19 years of age, or younger (with parental/guardian consent and participation) will be invited to come to the church for tutoring, mentoring, and spiritual development. These services will be offered by the participating churches in collaboration with colleges, universities, community organizations, health and wellness professionals. Each program will be relevant, engaging, and useful for children, families, and the surrounding community.
OBJECTIVES: The GEMS Program seeks to meet the following objectives:
- Develop a relationship based on faith, hope, family and community
- Monitor and strengthen the health of the children
- Help facilitate the access of resources in an effort to reduce barriers to youth’s success
- Support youth’s efforts related to career exploration and college applications
- Build strong connections both with the faith based churches, higher education, and organizations
- Increase youth’s skills and confidence related to education and career opportunities.
THE VILLAGE: “It Takes a Whole Village to Raise A Child’, is a wisdom that is just as meaningful today as it was in ancient Africa. We need Villages within our neighborhoods that are guided by faith and offer hope and a safe place for seniors, families and youth to live and grow. Throughout our city there is an abundance of churches and community centers in every neighborhood. By identifying the streets surrounding them and making that area their Village, our community can be strengthened, and our children can thrive. In a time with such great uncertainty, we need to support each other and be an extended family; bringing all of the available resources together. The colleges, community based organizations, health, and wellness services are ready, willing and able to provide: tutoring, training, job preparation, counseling, health screening, and whatever the individual needs are within the Village. The Village churches and providers working together would allow for activities to be available daily; and would be the safe place for positive and supportive services. The churches with a caring and loving heart can help bring neighbors together to have a productive and faith based purpose for the families who live in the Village. We all agree that we must save the children and save the communities; with everyone working together toward that common goal, we can do it. The successful Village will need the church as a guide; the community centers and the twelve Circles of Hope, will provide. (Luke 9:56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them, and they went to another Village.) We need a Village.
CIRCLES OF HOPE: The Circles of Hope will work together for the same mission, goal, and purpose: to Save The Children. There are twelve circles, each circle carries the message of a hope, and through their input and participation they can make a positive impact on each person within The Village community. Each Circle has it’s own identity, but shares in the goals of the GEMS Concept. The churches, community based organizations, health and service providers, and individuals who care about children and their futures are asked to be an active participant in one of the Circles of Hope. Each household will be made aware that there are Circles of Hope, ready to provide services and opportunities to the children and families in the community. “The Circles of Hope” all share in a love and desire to “Save the Children”. (Luke 8:1 And it came to pass afterward that He went throughout every city and, village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with Him.). Let each of us, “Keep Hope Alive”.
-by Arthur O. Eve